Meet our Citizens
Each month "The Citizen" spotlights one of our many contributors! This issue, Aleta Curry is profiled.
The Citizen: A short introduction, if you please :).
Aleta: My name is Aleta Curry. I live with a family I'm very proud of on the prettiest lane in the loveliest village of the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia.
TCZ: What are your hobbies? / What do you do for fun?
Aleta: I have varied interests. Those that I've been involved with longest are music, gardening and cooking. I used to dance, but don't find time now. I'm also quite involved in animal fancy, particularly dogs. Another long-time interest is history, which was my major in school, and film, which was my minor. I believe in being active in my community.
TCZ: What do you professionally?
Aleta: Short answer: I write. I also help look after our property, and keep house (badly!)
While I was mentioning memorable moments, I should have added my most embarrasingly amusing one: I was on a bushwalk and saw a little red dog peeping at me out of the scrub. Thinking it might have been lost, I started whistling and coaxing. It wasn't till the terriers came to see what I was interested in, and took off after the creature, and I saw a brush tail, that I realised I'd been trying to get a fox to come to me!
TCZ: What do you mostly write about?
Aleta: I don't actually know the answer to that question. I'll have to review my contributions list to see what category the majority of my articles fit into. I'm sure I've written a good bit about dog subjects, gardening and the arts--and I've done a bit in history and religion as well.
TCZ: What is your favourite topic of discussion?
Aleta: Too hard to answer! I love a good chat, though.
TCZ:I have heard you live in an unusual habitat; would you mind elaborating?
Aleta: I'd love to talk about my home. Yes, I suppose you could say it's unusual. We live on acreage in the country. At one point, pre-1965 we think, it was part of a working agricultural station, because there are livestock dams, some in disrepair, and old farm access tracks. Some discarded rubbish has also given some clues--like old beer bottles! It seems that a group of hippies lived in a converted bus at some point, then the land changed hands and eventually the property was subdivided and sold off in smaller parcels.
Anyway, we're creating a homestead on the side of a hill. My husband build the garage first, and that's where we live. I call it 'Le Shack' but other friends have dubbed it the Tardis because it's bigger inside than it looks from the outside. Even so, it's what my friends politely call 'cosy' (read '=@*^&% crowded!) We do not have town water or grid electricity, so that has forced us to be self-sufficient. We have a slow-combustion fire providing heat and hot water; the pipes are also connected to solar panels which provide hot water in the summer when the fire isn't lit. A separate solar system provides electricity for the house lights and can power the computer in bright sunlight. Heavy appliances like the washing machine and vacuum cleaner require the use of a generator. Not a lot of fun at these petrol prices! We are researching alternative energy for the main house.
We've rigged ag pipe from the shower to run under the flower beds and ornamental garden. Actually, that's really a propagation garden; it's a temporary place for me to grow things while we plan the final landscaping. I also use the rinse water from the washing machine (this involves several buckets and a good soaking every single time.) We catch all the rainwater we can; water from the open barrels is used for fruit and vegetables (except for the time the pony got in a drank a bunch, then went back and got the mare and filly and led them to it as well--grrr) and we've got special tanks for drinking and bathing water. Unbeknownst to us, a bat flew into one and drowned; we weren't sure how long it'd been there, and we couldn't waste the water, so my poor husband had to rearrange the pipes again and we use water from that tank only for the toilet.
Our area is rich in native wildlife, and they are a constant source of interest and amusement. In particular, the birdlife is spectacular and it is no exaggeration to talk about the cacophony of sound that I wake to. My present nemisis is a baby magpie: a great, almost-grown creature, quite capable of foraging, which nevertheless squawks fit to raise the dead for its mother to feed it. We had to halt construction in one area because a pair of swallows had built a nest in what will be the west hallway. My husband jokes that ours will be the only house on the planet with a dog door, a cat flap and a bird window! We fall asleep to a different sort of symphony: crickets, frogs, domestic animals braying in the distance and the screetch of owls and plovers.
My most poignant moment was when a dying walleroo came up to the house for help. I made him comfortable for the night, but when the native wildlife rescuers came over in the morning they explained that he was simply aged and at the end of his life and there was nothing to be done except to give him a dignified end. I've also rescued a baby cockatoo (blown out of a nest in a storm) and a baby wombat (mother apparently washed away in a flash flood) and a blue-tongued lizard that my terrier thought needed killing. "No, Spotty, No!" The dog got a rude awakening when he tried to take on a echidna, though.
TCZ: Do you maintain a garden and a compost? How does your garden grow?
Aleta: Ah, yes. The lone village shop several kilometres (or miles) down the road, and the nearest town (is) half an hour's drive. I'm not happy about the quality of produce in the supermarkets, so I'm learning to grow my own. We're not yet self-reliant, but we do subsidize our eating and I expect to produce much more of our fruit and vegetables next year, and all of it (except for exotic items) within two years.
I'm experimentin' with hot and cold compost techniques and have not yet made a decision about which is best for our needs. I'm also experimenting with 'no-dig' gardening and container garden, which I find I have more expertise in than I knew, since I always lived in cities before this and always grew plants indoors.
As a city-dweller, I was always disturbed by the plight of the urban poor, particularly my awareness of how many of these were aged persons. Providing an environment in which I can have a comfortable and self-reliant old age is always at the back of my mind as we build and plan. I feel that an orchard, a good vegetable garden and a few chickens can go a long way when you've got a limited budget.
It has been a challenge trying to learn about gardening in a drought (now apparently broken, hurrah!). I'm grateful for the experience, however. Learning about how to conserve water, lugging buckets of rinse water uphill to the zucchini, helping stressed plants win the battle against voracious pests (and losing a few battles, too)--it's all been profoundly useful. The funny thing is that I absolutely *hate* eating vegetables; I eat them because I know I should, not because I enjoy it. However, having to work so hard to grow them--well, now I'm eating them in defiance!
TCZ: Does your profession relate to any of the contributions you have made?
Aleta: Oh yes, certainly. For one thing, I have written professionally about a wide range of subjects, and I see Citizendium as an extension of that. In addition, most of my writing at present is about dogs, and I continue that at CZ. I also write about my hobbies and interests.
TCZ: What is your role in Citizendium?
Aleta: I am a specialist editor for dog breeds, and also the Mistress of Ceremonies for the Monthly Write-a-Thon, which I enjoy very much. It is my privilege to be a member of the Executive Council, whose role is to advise the Editor-in-chief.
TCZ: How do you see yourself fitting into the overall structure of CZ?
Aleta: A little bit difficult to answer, as to my mind, CZ's structure is still evolving. I do hope to be able to say one day that I was a valued team player and significant contributor during CZ's early years.
TCZ: What motivates you to contribute?
Aleta: Hmmm....A combination of factors that suit my personality and makeup. For one thing, teaching and sharing are just things that I enjoy. It's really quite as simple as that. Then again, working at CZ is greatly to my advantage: I love to learn, and where else can I learn so much from experts for so little personal cost? If I'm willing to extend myself a bit, I get more back than I ever expected. Also, it forces me to think about my work in different ways, and to keep up-to-date and accurate. When people question what I do, I have to double check, which means I'm either patting myself on the back for my brilliance, or admitting error and learning something new. Either way, it's win-win.
TCZ: What is your best experience on the wiki so far? Your worst?
Aleta: It's got to be all the humour. I dearly love to laugh, so to find so many clever people and so many clever jokes, gaffs, and good-natured teasing, it's so uplifting, like an inspirational church service or a fine concert. I was also thrilled when Larry Sanger remembered me in his Thanksgiving message last year, and it's wonderful when someone compliments something I've written.
The worst thing is putting my foot in it--particularly getting into trouble over something I wrote that someone else has taken badly, even if I didn't mean it that way at all! Oy! I'm trying hard to remember that writing is not at all like conversation; subtleties of tone can be much harder to convey.
TCZ: What do you look forward to the most?
Aleta: CZ being the first choice for students, scholars and casual browsers on the Internet.
TCZ: What would you like to see happen in CZ's future?
Aleta: I'd like to see CZ contributors receiving credit for significant work. I think it has to happen, eventually, though the mechanics of how, exactly, seem to be giving us some teething pain at the moment.
I'd like to see CZ with pages in other languages, of comparable (or superior--smiling broadly) quality to the English-language one.
I'd like to see CZ offering online courses for credit. Why on earth not? I'll be the first one to sign up!
TCZ: What kind of rewards or benefits would you like to see Citizendium participate in, if there could be a thing in the future...
Aleta: To me, it's all about supporting authors and editors so that CZ becomes the first place on the 'Net they choose to spend their time. People have so many interests and avenues for voluntary work these days; if they had to choose just one, CZ should be that one.
TCZ: What do you predict the future will be for wiki-based projects?
Aleta: No crystal ball here! My guess is that there will be more personal accountability, though.
Thanks for the insight, Aleta! Next issue will feature J. Noel Chiappa.